Financial Hardships Fuel the Fitness Industry

Guest post from Barbara Hoots

When the world markets were crashing in 1929 and the American economy was in ruins, Angelo Siciliano, an Italian immigrant, saw opportunity in the face of darkness. In the midst of financial despair and against all odds, Siciliano pioneered the fitness revolution as we know it today.

As a young man weighing only 97 pounds, Siciliano was at the beach with his girlfriend when a bully kicked sand in his face. Humiliated, he began doing numerous exercise routines and became obsessed with strength. According to Siciliano’s memoirs, he was at the zoo one day watching a lion stretch when he thought to himself, “Does this old gentleman have any barbells, any exercisers?” Siciliano concluded that lions and tigers became strong by pitting muscle against muscle. He changed his name to Charles Atlas and in the midst of economic turmoil began offering bodybuilding courses through a mail-order fitness program. Advertisements soon appeared in comic books and magazines, and this was the beginning of Charles Atlas Ltd., the fitness industry phenomenon. According to Atlas’s 1982 biography, “Yours in Perfect Manhood,” his company did so well that it emerged from the stock market crash unscathed.

Before the Great Depression lifted, Jack LaLanne, often called the Godfather of Fitness, also influenced millions of lives by teaching people to eat right and exercise regularly. LaLanne, who died last January at the age of 96, opened the first American health club in Oakland, California in 1936. LaLanne spent decades spreading the physical and mental benefits of exercise and designed the world’s first leg-extension machine which is now standard in the industry.

Neither Atlas nor Lalanne were personal trainers but rather shrewd businessmen. Both saw a hunger for people wanting to escape their financial woes and feel good about themselves. While others laughed at the notion of opening a business during an economic meltdown, Atlas and LaLanne created a multi-million dollar fitness empire.

Is something similar brewing? Despite the sagging economy and rising unemployment, several recent polls indicate that tough financial times actually encourage people to redirect their expenses toward health-conscious pursuits while traveling and dining out less often. While some may suggest that dropping your health club membership along with cable television is the right thing to do in a troubled economy, you should never give up your membership in ANY economy. Your gym membership is an incredible value for these 5 reasons:

1. On average, a single meal out costs well over half what your gym membership costs you.

2. Working out regularly keeps you mentally and physically balanced. Enough said.

3. No matter what gym you belong to, it’s a community. Enjoying like-minded individuals is good for the soul.

4. Your health club is a safe harbor. No matter how hectic your life becomes with interruptions, knowing you have a bike waiting in the 6:00 cycling class provides a constant in your daily schedule.

5. Exercise boosts self-confidence, and this is important if you’re dealing with the negative effects of a recession or your confidence is down due to a job loss.

Just like Atlas and LaLanne, studio owners have an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by promoting fitness as a way to survive financial hardships. While it’s true that money can’t bring happiness, good health most definitely can.

Barbara Hoots is a long time contributor at www.indoorcycleinstructor.com and you can read her other articles here. Considering a new studio? Visit indoorcycledesign.com to learn more about designing the perfect Spinning® Studio.

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